Tough love Samson’s strength

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One of Samson Lee’s colourful island creations. Picture: SUPPLIED

Entrepreneurship came easy because as a child Samson Lee learned that every part of the business process costs something.

Growing up in Nadi, Samson was the youngest of four children and was always trying new things and pushing boundaries and while his parents were very supportive, they charged him for everything the leading fashion designer would use to earn money.

Now the owner of a highly successful boutique situated on Butt St in Suva and frequented by some of the country’s leading men and women, Samson said tough love set him up well for business success.

“They would charge me for using their gas when I would make chocolate chip cookies or charge me for the cost of fuel when taking me to the shop to buy ingredients. It was a hard lesson to learn as a teenager but as an entrepreneur, those lessons have become invaluable,” Samson said.

“It was those early lessons that taught me how to budget and how to take everything into account when running a business.”

After leaving secondary school, Samson pursued a degree in social work at the Brigham Young University in Hawaii and worked in that space for a few years before turning his attention to fashion.

“Fashion has always been an extension of my personality. Losing my sister to cancer was a pivotal moment in my life; it’s when I realised that life was too short and I should pursue my dreams.

“I followed my passion and launched my fashion label, Samson Lee Fiji, in 2015. As an emerging designer, I harnessed the power of online advertising and social media to carve out a niche for myself on the Fiji fashion scene.”

Inspired by what he describes as the “rich melting pot of traditional motifs across the Fijian cultural landscape and endemic marine life”, Samson has taken the fashion world by storm since 2015, creating a niche market in a sector of fashion that was already quite saturated and became a leader in the market.

“Since launching my brand five years ago, I am proud to boast a popular boutique in the heart of the Suva business district that complements my online clientele and also allows other designers to promote their clothing range.”

What sets the Suva designer apart is his use of mixed media and the performance arts to push his brand.

Prominent and influential local designer, Samson Lee. Picture: SUPPLIED

In a short five-year span, he has staged some of the most creative and well-attended fashion events in the country, starting with intimate events within the Suva night scene.

The stand-alone shows have somewhat kept the attention on his garments during the COVID-19 pandemic and downtime that many others have struggled with and, in the process, he has been able to maintain exports to Australia and New Zealand.

One such show was the Wearing Fiji (WF) project, an event he staged with social media expert Neisau Tuidraki who has looked after the Fiji Fashion Week (FJFW) brand for a few years.

“WF is a local initiative aimed at creating spaces to exchange fashion knowledge such as mentoring for emerging and student designers and capacity building for established designers.”

Events such as WF have kept the Samson Lee Fiji brand prominent in a customer base that is already quite wide.

“SL Fiji is a brand that caters to South Pacific women who come in all shapes and sizes. We are acutely aware that our women are not built the same way as women overseas; some may have wider hips while others may have smaller waists.

“Which is why my goal is to have a range that caters to all while also providing tailor-made clothes to my clients upon request.

“My collection is, and has always been, for everyone; I always strive to be inclusive.”

The leading designer is excited about his debut on the FJFW platform but his favourite part of this weekend’s FJFW Resort Luxe Show is the emerging designers who had been upgraded to participate in the show which normally featured established designers.

“Seeing emerging designers has always been my favourite part of FJFW. Seeing their different pieces and their fresh perspective always sets the bar for the rest of the fashion industry.”

So what does a leading designer, and atelier to some of Fiji’s leading fashion-forward women, wear to stay relevant in fashion?

“I think fashionable sunglasses and a light throw to cover a swimsuit never goes out of style. With that being said, I’ve seen the new round towels trending lately online. But this is Fiji, we tend to make our own trends.”

Watch Samson Lee Fiji at the FJFW Palmolive Resort Luxe Show at the Hilton Fiji Beach Resort and Spa
on Saturday, November 28 at 5pm.

  • Lice Movono is a freelancer writer and communications specialist
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